Like many others, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to General Conference last weekend. I have a close friend that told me of an experience he had last week that reminded me of Elder Holland's talk. With his permission, I share his story:
I saw a wonderful thing this morning that God had done that I wanted to share with all of you.
I was on my weekly commute back up to Portland on the 6am flight out of Sacramento. While I am not someone to eavesdrop on a conversation I could not help but hear the two people seated behind me. This was on Horizon and thus the seats are quite close. Before we took off I could tell that the two people behind me were not together but they were talking with each other about families and such. The lady (Susan) was traveling to visit a friend in Portland though she was afraid to fly. Seated next to her was Ted from Alaska who had been in Sacramento attending a wedding. Early on Ted told her that he is a pilot of small planes so he knew about flying. He also made comment to her that he liked it when the flight was a little bumpy. Maybe in retrospect that was to comfort Susan with her anxiety about flying.
When Susan asked Ted about what he did, he said that he and his wife run a Christian camp for kids in Alaska. In the rest of the conversation they had I heard her tell him of challenges she was having with her adult son and she did not know how to help with the problems. At that point I could tell that Ted was sharing the gospel with her and telling her about Jesus. Susan was open to what he was saying throughout the conversation. When we were descending into Portland I heard Ted ask Susan if he could pray for her. We were going through a pretty good cloud layer but it was not too rough. In his prayer he asked God for help for Susan and the challenges with her son and also to be with her as she felt anxiety on the flight (and also for her flight home on Wednesday). The whole time I could hear Ted praying I was saying my own prayer not only for her but thanks to God for putting the two of them together on the flight.
After we landed I heard Susan thank Ted for praying for her. As we left the plane I had to stand in the jet way to wait for my second bag which they put in baggage on Horizon. When Ted came by I stopped him and said that I don’t normally listen in to other’s conversations but I had heard what he said and how wonderful I thought it was what he did. Ted asked if I was a believer to which I answered “Oh yes I am.” He responded with “isn’t it great what He does?”
I don’t do the send this to 10 people kind of thing, but here is what I would ask each of you to join me in doing. Please tell God thank you for a messenger like Ted and that he had the courage to reach out to a stranger with God’s word. I pray that I would someday be able to do what he did in serving God.
One last thing that shows even more of God’s hand all over this. Last night when I checked in for the flight I was looking to change seats as I saw 2 seats together and I had hoped to get an arrangement like that so I could work on a spreadsheet on my laptop during the flight. I didn’t make the change as I had a feeling I can’t really describe that told me to not make the change. If I had done the change I would have taken the seat that Ted had.
God bless Ted and I pray that what took place this morning at 30,000 feet will lead Susan to Jesus!
In Christ’s name,
Thank you Scott for sharing that with me, and allowing me to share it with others.
In Elder Holland's talk he said:
I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind. Elder James Dunn, from this pulpit just moments ago, used that word in his invocation to describe this Primary choir—and why not? With the spirit, faces, and voices of those children in our mind and before our eyes, may I share with you an account by my friend and BYU colleague, the late Clyn D. Barrus. I do so with the permission of his wife, Marilyn, and their family.
Referring to his childhood on a large Idaho farm, Brother Barrus spoke of his nightly assignment to round up the cows at milking time. Because the cows pastured in a field bordered by the occasionally treacherous Teton River, the strict rule in the Barrus household was that during the spring flood season the children were never to go after any cows who ventured across the river. They were always to return home and seek mature help.
One Saturday just after his seventh birthday, Brother Barrus’s parents promised the family a night at the movies if the chores were done on time. But when young Clyn arrived at the pasture, the cows he sought had crossed the river, even though it was running at high flood stage. Knowing his rare night at the movies was in jeopardy, he decided to go after the cows himself, even though he had been warned many times never to do so.
As the seven-year-old urged his old horse, Banner, down into the cold, swift stream, the horse’s head barely cleared the water. An adult sitting on the horse would have been safe, but at Brother Barrus’s tender age, the current completely covered him except when the horse lunged forward several times, bringing Clyn’s head above water just enough to gasp for air.
Here I turn to Brother Barrus’s own words:
“When Banner finally climbed the other bank, I realized that my life had been in grave danger and that I had done a terrible thing—I had knowingly disobeyed my father. I felt that I could redeem myself only by bringing the cows home safely. Maybe then my father would forgive me. But it was already dusk, and I didn’t know for sure where I was. Despair overwhelmed me. I was wet and cold, lost and afraid.
“I climbed down from old Banner, fell to the ground by his feet, and began to cry. Between thick sobs, I tried to offer a prayer, repeating over and over to my Father in Heaven, ‘I’m sorry. Forgive me! I’m sorry. Forgive me!’
“I prayed for a long time. When I finally looked up, I saw through my tears a figure dressed in white walking toward me. In the dark, I felt certain it must be an angel sent in answer to my prayers. I did not move or make a sound as the figure approached, so overwhelmed was I by what I saw. Would the Lord really send an angel to me, who had been so disobedient?
“Then a familiar voice said, ‘Son, I’ve been looking for you.’ In the darkness I recognized the voice of my father and ran to his outstretched arms. He held me tightly, then said gently, ‘I was worried. I’m glad I found you.’
“I tried to tell him how sorry I was, but only disjointed words came out of my trembling lips—’Thank you . . . darkness . . . afraid . . . river . . . alone.’ Later that night I learned that when I had not returned from the pasture, my father had come looking for me. When neither I nor the cows were to be found, he knew I had crossed the river and was in danger. Because it was dark and time was of the essence, he removed his clothes down to his long white thermal underwear, tied his shoes around his neck, and swam a treacherous river to rescue a wayward son.”12
My beloved brothers and sisters, I testify of angels, both the heavenly and the mortal kind. In doing so I am testifying that God never leaves us alone, never leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face. “[N]or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man [or woman or child] upon the face thereof to be saved.”13 On occasions, global or personal, we may feel we are distanced from God, shut out from heaven, lost, alone in dark and dreary places. Often enough that distress can be of our own making, but even then the Father of us all is watching and assisting. And always there are those angels who come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal.
May we all believe more readily in, and have more gratitude for, the Lord’s promise as contained in one of President Monson’s favorite scriptures: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, . . . my Spirit shall be in your [heart], and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”14 In the process of praying for those angels to attend us, may we all try to be a little more angelic ourselves—with a kind word, a strong arm, a declaration of faith and “the covenant wherewith [we] have covenanted.”15 Perhaps then we can be emissaries sent from God when someone, perhaps a Primary child, is crying, “Darkness . . . afraid . . . river . . . alone.” To this end, I pray in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I am grateful for heavenly help that is frequently manifested by mortal angels living among us.